Class: Aves (Birds)
Body length: 9 inches (24 centimeters) for males; 8.6 inches (21.8 centimeters) for females
Weight: 2.9 to 3.5 ounces (90 to 100 grams)
Life span: unknown in wild, up to 25 years in zoos
Incubation: 13 to 14 days
Number of eggs laid: usually 3
Age of maturity: young fledge in 15 to 25 days and continue to be fed by parents for a few weeks. They molt into adult plumage within a few months after leaving nest.
Conservation status: critical risk
Scientists discovered the Bali mynah, or Bali starling,
in 1912. Its species name comes from Lord Rothschild, a British ornithologist
who financed the collecting of this species.
The Bali mynah is an important national symbol and has been adopted as the island of Bali's official bird.
Birds: Bali Mynah
Beautiful and mysterious
The Bali mynah is a beautiful snow white bird with black feathers at the tips of its wings and striking sky blue patches of skin around its eyes. Its beauty is probably why this bird's likeness is used in much of the cultural art found on the island of Bali in Indonesia. The Bali mynah, also called the Bali starling, is found in one small region of Bali, an island that is smaller than the size of Rhode Island.
Not a lot of research has been done on wild Bali mynahs. What we do know comes mostly from studying the mynahs in zoos. During the 1960s and 1970s, several hundred birds were legally brought to the United States and Europe to both zoos and private collectors. These birds and their descendants make up the approximately 1,000 birds that live in managed care.
Bali mynahs live in the holes of trees and line their nests with leaves, stems of dried plants, and feathers. In zoos, their nests are home to the several clutches of eggs they may have each year. In the wild, they seem to breed between November and April, which is the rainy season for Bali. The entire population of Bali mynahs usually gathers in the 740-acre (300-hectare) section of Bali Barat National Park to pair up and breed. They may produce two to three clutches during this time with two to three eggs per clutch. The eggs are bluish green, and both the mother and father incubate the eggs. Both parents feed the chicks and take turns carrying food back to the nest in their beaks. Bali mynahs eat insects and fruit. Insects seem to be most plentiful in Bali during the rainy season. Perhaps this is why the mynahs have their breeding season at that time.
Why are Bali mynahs in trouble?
Even though they are only found in a small part of the world, at a quick glance it seems like the Bali mynahs have everything they need to flourish: a good supply of food, lots of chicks, and a national park in which to live. So what is the problem? One simple word: humans. In 1978 there were 550 Bali mynahs in the wild; there may be just 24 birds living in the wild right now-that's not very many! The beauty of the birds has attracted people in the cage-bird trade. In Denpasar, Bali's capital, there is a thriving bird market. Thousands of different bird species are crammed into cages and sold for maybe one or two dollars each. Because of the rarity of the Bali mynah, the bird markets can charge higher prices for these birds. Having a Bali mynah in a private collection is considered a status symbol, so poachers are encouraged to continue to capture these endangered birds for the pet trade.
Another reason for the Bali mynah's decline is people moving into the bird's habitat. The booming tourist industry in Bali has caused the human population to triple in the past 70 years, and a large camp for coconut plantation workers was established in the national park.
Mynahs need your help!
Much effort has been made to help the Bali mynah's wild population recover. The Bali Starling Project has made efforts to help guard the Bali Barat National Park where the birds live from illegal trapping and has released captive-bred birds there to help the tiny population grow. You can help discourage poachers by never purchasing a pet that has come from the wild. Many exotic species might seem like a fun idea for a pet, but in reality they are not what you expected. They can be very hard to care for and could even be illegal to own in your state!
How San Diego Zoo Global is helping
When enough people listen to the story of the Bali mynah and realize that having a wild Bali mynah for a pet is not a good idea, then efforts may again be made to release them into the wild. Until then, zoos are breeding their mynahs for the long term and are hoping to keep the genetic population varied in the captive population. San Diego Zoo Global is involved with the Bali Mynah Species Survival Plan (SSP), as are other zoos with Bali mynahs. The Bali Mynah SSP, maintained at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, has records of every Bali mynah in managed care and which mynahs they are most closely and distantly related to. The SSP then advises each zoo which birds should breed with which in order to not inbreed the animals. In 1962, the San Diego Zoo is believed to have had the first successful breeding of Bali mynahs in the United States. We currently have three males and two females. Keepers are hopeful that they will find chicks in the nest some day soon.